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EXCLUSIVE! Odisha FC defender Gaurav Bora has his sights set on topping the standings in ISL 8

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Odisha FC defender Gaurav Bora has said that the Bhubaneshwar-based club will look to make a strong comeback and top the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 points table after a disappointing campaign last season.

Nicknamed the Kalinga Warriors, Odisha FC managed just two wins in 20 matches in ISL 7 and finished at the bottom of the league with 12 points. 

“Our collective aim is to always finish at the top of the table and collect three points from every match. That is the mentality we have this year too. We have a new team, new coach, the playing style is different, and there are people with varied experiences. The training is going great and we will give our best shot,”  the Odisha FC centre-back told SportsAdda in an exclusive interview.

 

Ahead of the upcoming eighth edition of ISL, Odisha FC showed a strong desire to make a mark in Indian football as they roped in former Spain football team forward David Villa as their technical advisor and head of global football operations.

The ISL franchise also appointed Kiko Ramírez as the club’s new head coach and he will replace Stuart Baxter at the helm. A UEFA Pro Licence holder, Ramírez has signed a one-year contract with an option to extend after the season and the Assam-born Bora stated that the Spanish manager has been extremely supportive of his players since his appointment as Odisha FC head coach. 

“He did have an individual interaction after his appointment. We talked about my role and our collective expectations for the team. It was quite an open discussion where he was supportive and stressed on how we have to stay as a family in this difficult bio-bubble. The conversation was really nice,” the 23-year-old defender added.

During the interview, Bora also threw light on what prompted a positional change from midfield to central defence while plying his trade for Chennai City FC during the 2018-19 I-League season.

“When I was at FC Pune City’s academy, I was made to play as a defensive midfielder under coach Roger Lamesa. At Chennai, coach Akbar Nawas wanted me to play as a centre-back and I performed well in that position too. I think it was not too easy or too difficult but it had its own challenges playing in a new role. I got the necessary support from coaches and teammates too,” he said.

Bora, who has made 28 ISL appearances for Odisha FC, first came into the limelight after he scored a brace in Chennai City FC’s last match of the 2018-19 I-League season against Minerva Punjab to help the southerners claim their first-ever I-League title, which also happened to be the first trophy of the 23-year-old’s career.

 

“Talking of the final, we were a goal down at half-time. Then we got corners and I scored two goals which were like icing on the cake which led to a call-up from under-23. It was just a perfect ending,” Bora reminisced. 

The former FC Pune City footballer also shared his experience while at the famed Baichung Bhutia Football School, where he received his initial football training.

“The experience was very fulfilling and enriching. I got to learn a lot from the BaIchung Bhutia academy where the coaches cleared the basics and created a solid foundation and gave exposure in a lot of international tournaments as well,” Bora said.

Having now completed three seasons in the top tier of Indian football besides also making two appearances for the Indian under-23 side, Bora now dreams of representing the senior national team.

“The ultimate goal is obviously to play for the senior team but I have to improve on a lot of areas which I have identified along with my coach. The goal is to have a better season this year and take it step by step,” he expressed.

Odisha FC will kick-off their ISL 2021-22 campaign against Bengaluru FC at the Tilak Maidan in Goa on November 24.

Featured photo: Odisha FC/ISL/ILeagueOfficial

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